Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Tired child and moody mum = turbulence

I let myself down as a mum again today. Having had to go to a hearing test this morning and with them going to playschool in the afternoon, I hadn't really seen them all day. So when I went to pick them up Olivia was a little clingy, which was fine, but then came the tears. She cried because she wanted her lunchbox - there was nothing in it - she cried because there was nothing in it! She cried because she wanted a drink - I didn't have one on me - she cried again. She cried because she didn't want to go home - I told her we were not going home but going to see her friend Lucy - that made her cry too. I needn't go on, you get the picture.

What it was, and I knew this really, was that she was tired, but rather like some rational, calm, serene mother that provided comfort and affection. I just became this ratty, bitchy, shouty mum who probably just amplified the situation and made things worse.

WHY DO I DO THAT?? I am the adult in this, yet I feel sometimes like a moody teenager who has been tasked with looking after their little brother/sister. I could feel myself getting angrier and more agitated, when really all it would've taken is a few more hugs, cuddles and soothing conversation to distract her. 

Our children maybe quite manipulative some times, but they are also very vulnerable and sensitive. Every time I have shouted at them I get a pang of guilt because they're faces look very confused. I feel they're embarrassment. Sometimes I feel bad because I have shouted at them when when it wasn't really necessary but enough to get that vein throbbing slightly in my head a little.

I know that no parent or child is perfect and that raised voices, used in the correct way can be effective. I just don't want my children to look back at they're childhood and remember mum's "moods". Perhaps I need to take a few deep breathes or maybe just appreciate my children's needs a little bit more before re-acting so harshly.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Coming up for air

I watched this film recently called The Private Life of Pippa Lee. It's about a middle age woman who lives a very suburban, sedate and slow life. She is portrayed as a somewhat submissive and bland housewife, who's life is devoted to her sick husband and grown up high achieving twins.

However, we are taken back in flashbacks to her life before she met her husband and it is revealed that she was actually a tearaway teen, posing for raunchy lesbian photo shoots, experimenting with a cocktail of drugs amongst the Bohemia of New York. There she was free to think and do as she pleased, no one judged her, in fact most men were in awe of her.

Then we are taken back to 30 years later where she is leading this humdrum and sepia life. The person she was has been washed away and replaced by mother and wife of...

I felt like this for a while. I know that I am more fortunate than most others and in many ways my life is good, perfect almost. I have a great partner, two gorgeous kids, a lovely home that is filled with nice food and furniture (yes in that order).

But I still couldn't help think that in some ways becoming a mum (apart from if you are The Duchess of Cambridge or Kim Kardashian) made you sort of invisible. It's like being given this blank canvas, but unable to fill it.

I'm not blaming anyone but myself really, no one makes me wear drab and boring baggy clothes, objects if I don't wear make up or put my wet hair up in a pony tail. My eyebrows are that unkempt I make the Gallagher brothers monobrow look quite tidy: and a yeti takes more care of it's body hair than I do. But I don't think anyone noticed, more shockingly I don't think anyone cared.

Now to be honest, I'm not really a vain person, I use my physical appearance to try and get across a point really. Is there really a sign over my head that says "I'm a mother now, please take no notice of me".

For those of you who are stay at home mums, do you ever feel uncomfortable telling people that's what you are? You get I felt that look as though you had just said "I sit on my arse and do nothing". It's an almost pitiful look to which you  then spend the next half an hour justifying my role and in doing so boring everyone as you regale them with woes of how much washing and cleaning you do alongside trying to ensure you children do not become cbeebie zombies.

I recently started doing a bit of catering work for someone, helping out at events, weddings etc etc, and I feel so rejuvenated. it was like I had been underwater for a while and now I've finally come up for air. The real me is coming back out again, I am blossoming like a sunflower, blooming like a am..HAPPY, because I feel like I have a sense of self worth. I am not just a mum, I'm Leah, who helps Maynards Farm with their catering. I'm not earning enough that will buy us house, Lord even a doll's house, but to me, the money is a great sidebar. I'm back to my old waitressing days of putting money in a pot and it's fun. This is more about reaching in a pulling out the Leah that once was, not just pre-kids but pre everything that has happened in my life. Like I said, I can't really blame anyone, no one forces you to give up your identity, situations occur and it just kind of happens. 

And more importantly I don't blame my kids, in fact, they are the reason that I'm on this quest again. For years I lost myself, there has been a low flame in my eyes, but now that fire is burning again, because I want my children to see the best of me. 

I don't think I'm quite ready for a full time job yet, I still enjoy my time with the kids (I'm lucky to get that - my fellow full time working mum's out there - I salute you), but just this little door opener has meant that the sign now reads "I'm a mother, now take notice!!"

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Tears and tantrums..erm that's me and not the kids

Whilst having children does (or should) make you a more responsible adult, it can, at times, make you regress and unleash the inner child in you. Sometimes in a good way, I can quite easily believe that our sofa is actually a car or a boat. I am an excellent guest at Olivia's tea party for her dolls and have spent a lot of money buying food from Beau's corner shop.

Yet, there are times when you have to remind yourself that you are the more advanced of the two parties involved and there are certain childish traits that you should just not follow.

I have definitely learnt that kids are more clever than we adults think, they have this amazing ability without much thought to bring us down to their level and behave in ways that are normally reserved for them.

Me and friend were also talking recently about her relationship with her daughter who is three and a bit and she confessed that she felt like the confrontations that she had were her were almost on a childlike level, there was no rationality to them and that it was more like playground behaviour than a mother trying to control her child. I then got on my high horse and told her that she needed to be the mum and not the child and all that sanctimonious rubbish that people say when they don't experience the same thing - but folks there is karma........

Today, I spent over an hour with the kids making cards with animals on hat you then rolled up tissue paper and stuck all over..see below for the evidence.

It was a lovely hour, the kids sat calmly and attentively whilst I dabbed on glue and told them where to stick (although Beau got bored half way through and went off to play wit his train) So me and Olivia soldiered on together to create what I thought was two cute and rather intricate pieces of art. Now obviously I accept that  I was far too caught up in my creative ego and really it was just a bit of tissue stuck on card, but at the time I was feeling all warm and cosy in the fact that me and my daughter had created a "masterpiece" together. 

So you can imagine my shock and despair when 30 mins later I found Olivia sat on the floor tearing off all the pieces of tissue that we had so delicately and precisely been applying. My friends I have to tell you that I almost burst into tears, I was speechless. In that moment you could actually say I spat my dummy. I actually wanted to stamp my feet, cry and say "that's not fair". For that moment my brain had been re-wired to that of my child's. I really wanted to have a tantrum, to sit and sulk in a corner with my arms crossed and my bottom lip sticking out.

And I did sulk, not in a corner, but I refused to talk to Olivia and told her to go away and not talk to me, which I would often do to my mum and dad whenever I had one of my little paddy's as a child. Stomping away with a proper exaggerated step to emphasise how angry I was. Oh my lord!!

Poor Olivia, she apologised without me having to say anything and then she spent the next 20 mins trying to make me laugh and all I could do was mope and moan about how she had ruined everything and dramatically exclaimed how upset mummy was. Of course, 10 mins later I felt a bit silly, why did it matter so much and why had I behaved so childishly? 

I guess sometimes the responsibility of being a parent can just become a little too much and like a child, we become a little sensitive and want to kick out, scream and wail. The difference between us and our children is that we have a conscience and  beat ourselves up for this occasional loss of control. For them, they have a tantrum, bit of a cry and a few minutes later it's forgotten. For us, the responsible ones, we then spend the next few days chastising ourselves about how bad a parent we have been.

Of course we can't always be the perfect parents and I have come to realise that I should not feel guilty when it comes to getting cross with the kids, I fully believe that if there is a child in this world that never misbehaves or pisses off their their parents then they are either Pinocchio and wooden or have been bound and gagged and locked in a cellar!!

It's ok to break out of the mummy/daddy role from time to time, but just remember, kids are highly observant and receptive, they learn and react from you and your behaviour. Yet  most importantly, always ensure above all else that your child knows that they are loved and cherished. When you do that the rewards are always worth the tears and the tantrums that you and them sometimes endure.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Heart on my sleeve

I'm really grateful for the feedback that I've had off people who have read my blog. The one thing that seems to come up is how open and forward I am about my life and things that I feel. I guess I don't seem to have a censor button when it comes to talking about myself and my emotions.

All my life I think I have been very forthcoming in terms of expressing myself. As a child, if I was upset, angry, happy, sad, pissed off, whatever, I not only let people know verbally, but also my body would also be acting out whichever emotion I would happen to be experiencing. Is there such a condition as emotional tourettes?

They say that your eyes are like a window into your soul, for me that is so true. Like my father, I think I have this ability to speak with my eyes and not say a word. As a child, it wasn't shouting in our house that had any impact, my dad would have a "stare", his eyes would go a very deep brown, almost black and they would fix upon you and hold you there under his gaze. If this was some sci-fi film, you could probably see the laser that was ever so slowly burning into your head. When you saw this stare, you would have to turn away quickly just in case he might actually penetrate the brain.

Maybe I picked up on this technique, or perhaps it was inherited, either way, I too have the "stare". I discovered this following a conversation that my headmaster (also taught me French) had with my parents when I was 12.

Mr Weremcyk - "your daughter is hard to teach"
my parents - "erm, ok, why?"
MrWeremcyk - "She has way of looking at me, that is most unsettling, a certain stare"

Yes, there you go folks, even at 12 I had the stare nailed.

I use the old adage ' I wear my heart on my sleeve'  because no truer words could be said, but it actually makes me feel comfortable to be so open and honest. I'm not ashamed of telling people how I feel. I sometimes think I do it because I want people to feel able to tell me things that they might not necessarily think is OK to discuss. This sounds very corny and perhaps a little bit egotistical, but nothing makes me feel better and happier when someone is able to disclose something to me that they might otherwise have felt awkward about. It's not about what they relate, but the fact that they can feel that they can relate to me. It's almost like I'm a big comfy chair that they can relax in.

The person I probably have to thank for this is my mum, she had the most warm and welcoming aura around her that glowed. People were forever in her office or on her phone seeking advice or just an ear. From old ladies and troubled teens to top flight rabbis, mum would listen to them with the same unaffected and nonjudgmental attention. There was no pompousness in her counsel, she did not feel herself as a martyr, she only ever wanted to make people feel comfortable in her presence.

But it is with the love and tolerance that I had from both my parents that have allowed me to be the open and honest person that I am today. They always encouraged both me and my brothers to be true to ourselves, making it feel natural for us to be expressive and emotionally unconstrained. Yes our house was often loud, contentious and somewhat tumultuous. However, when it came to who we all were as people, parents and children that was and still is bona fide and genuine.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Lets talk about sex (maybe)

How the subject arose I can't quite remember, but today at a friends birthday lunch, the issue of how we would deal with the "sex" issue as our children reached a certain age came to the fray.

I have to admit I was quietly surprised by the fact that some of my friends, who are quite liberal in many ways and talk openly when it comes to matters of a carnal nature, seemed to clam up when it came to the thought of approaching the subject with their children.

It is for most parents I feel, the looming elephant in the room. Like potty training, religion and politics, it falls in the same category of things parents dread bringing up with their children, an area of growing up that many of us wish that children would quietly and easily discover for themselves. 

Look, you can't get away from the fact that your children are eventually going to do IT. They are also going to try drinking, smoking (possibly drugs), you know that because you have done it too. Take yourself back 10, 20, 30 years or so - you have to ask yourself how would you have wanted your parents to re-act? Did they do it the right way? 

I have to say that I think my parents got it right. They didn't make a big thing about it yet neither did they pretend that they thought we would stay virgins forever. Both mum and dad made it clear that if we wanted to discuss it they were happy to do so. 

From a young age we would also happily sit alongside our parents watching comedy films such as Lemon Popsicle  and Porky's, all relating to sexually frustrated young men painfully and usually unsuccessfully trying to lose their virginity, so maybe that helped lighten things up a bit.

I think my dad felt that his remit as a parent was to find as many ways possible to embarrass his children. Let me just take a moment to list some things that we were subjected to

My dad would....

1, Lie on the floor supermarkets calling out our names
2, Sing in the street
3, Walk out in his underpants in the street
4, Sing really loudly during services at synagogue to try and out sing the choir
5, Do the dad dance at wedding, barmitzvah, birthday parties (fortunately not at funerals)
6, Make silly noises and jump up and down pointing at us in the street so that everyone would look

Yet, there is one thing that mostly sticks out in my memory, in fact I can't even call it a memory as still to this day, my dad will hasten to add some sort of  sexual pun or innuendo into any conversation, normally relating to a woman's breasts. Now, as much as it did and still does make me cringe, in some ways having this issue so openly and jokingly discussed meant that sex was never really an issue, or something that was seen "dirty" or "forbidden". 

My oldest brother started bringing girlfriends home from the age of 17 and my parents were very comfortable with that, better in his bedroom than children's outdoor playhouse in a park (not me a friend). 

Had I not developed an eating disorder throughout my teens, I totally believe that I would've been comfortable and confident when it came to sex. I would quite happily have taken boys home with me as it was where I felt safe. 

Now I'm not saying that we should be buying vibrators and the karma sutra for our kids, but things are so different now, our kids can get information about anything at the click of a button. So would advice not be better coming from someone they can trust rather than a stranger on a screen.

We all have our own way of parenting and I am not here to preach or persuade, all I can say is that all the issues I ever had in my life were self inflicted rather than as result of lack of parental guidance.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

To my friends

When we discovered that we were having twins, we decided that it would be good to move near family (we're talking seconds away!!) 

For twelve years we lived in Leeds, a vibrant city well known for its clubbing / bar scene and shopping. As a young couple it was a great place to be, we indulged in the nightlife and were happy to be part of the hustle and bustle of a reasonably large city. 

During our time in Leeds I was trying to juggle two jobs, one as a gym instructor at for Virgin Active, the biggest, a swanky gym with over 1000 members. The other was as a PR and marketing consultant. So I knew lots of people, but having to spend so much time being bubbly and sociable in my job soon left me with little energy to socialise outside of my work.I avoided going to social events for work and always felt like I didn't really fit in as I wasn't one of the "team". I think people thought I was a bit of a snob or just very boring I had a small group of friends but, and I apologise to them now, I was an elusive friend, drifting in and out of their lives, never really making any firm commitments to them. Now, I don't want those that knew me to feel like I'm disrespecting them in some way, because I know that those people cared about me, it's more of a failure on my part to be a good friend.

The decision to move away from Leeds wasn't really a heart wrenching one. Whilst I would miss teaching my classes at Virgin and my regular indulgences in the M&S food hall, both me and Rick were ready for a change, especially with two little tiddlers on the way. We were living in a 2 bed terrace adjacent to a main road, with no garden, not the most ideal place to live with children. No, now we needed a house with a garden, preferably in a quiet and safe road - it was time to be ouch, dare I say it...sensible

So on a very cold and icy week in December 2010, we moved to a lovely house in Shropshire. For a few months I had withdrawal symptoms from living in the city. Whitchurch is a sleepy little town in what some would term "out in the sticks" Tractors are more common place than cars and an Indian is considered as posh food. 

In Leeds, I was indulged with a choice of shops, restaurants, cinemas, bars, even museums.When I first hit Whitchurch town centre it felt like a step back in to the 1980's. It has that battered and bruised feeling of many town centres around the country due to the influx of giant supermarkets and retail parks on the outskirts. How was I ever going to survive, I thought!!!!

My saving grace were my kids, it was through them that I have learnt to love this town and all the many people I have met that live here. 

Yes, I have become part of the mummy brigade, most of my friends are mums. OK, the children do factor highly in our conversations, but who else is going to understand when you feel like shit because you've been up since 4am, or are get as excited when your child does their first poo in a potty. But as a parent that support is crucial in surviving the sometimes exasperating parts of being a parent.

Being in a small place allows you to slow down and make more time for people, there is a need to be connected and after many years of feeling adrift I finally feel part of something again.

You know in my last blog post I mentioned that I was grieving for that little girl I once was? I honestly feel like I have been given a second chance to live again, I'm beginning to feel like I'm getting that sparkle back, there's a warmth and energy that is climbing up from my soul and starting to radiate through my skin.

As dramatic as it sounds, it's like my cold heart has been melted, fro many years, being a friend was a chore to me, something that didn't come easy. Now, being a friend means so much to me, having people to turn to is as important as breathing. 

To those of my dear friends past and present, I owe you so much...........

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 
― C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

It's been a while

OK, so it's been a very loooooooooooong time since I wrote my lost post, almost six months to be precise

I guess it was a combination of laziness, motherhood and brain freeze. Although saying that, I've actually felt like my head would actually explode with the amount of activity that has been going on inside.

It's been a bit of a funny time, I've been in a bit of a dark place. I think I was looking over the garden fence and seeing a greener grass and rosy garden, whilst mine seemed withered and barren....yes it's a jolly post today!!

As some of you have read in my previous posts, I've not adapted as easily as some to the role of motherhood, it's been both a mental and physical challenge. I won't regurgitate past blog posts as I don't want to bore those who have already read about my battles with eating disorders, but in a nutshell becoming a mum to twins = change body + change in lifestyle and routine = major struggle. Then add to the pot a feeling of failure having never really achieved a stable career status. Things just reached boiling point for me towards the end of 2012.

I had tried and succeeded in getting a job, but it involved getting up at 4am and then coming home back to a full day with the kids. I didn't make it easy for myself as I'm a night bird and don't go to sleep until late. But even so, the people that I worked with were either very young or reasonably older than myself. It got to the point where I had nor energy for the kids and the thought of having to do stuff with them made me want to curl up in a ball and hide. So ashamedly, I only lasted 3 months in the job and thoughts of a new career were pushed right to the furthest part of the cupboard where the cobwebs dwell.

With that came a black cloud, in which my brain would just not switch off in terms of negative thoughts and I was constantly giving myself a mental beating. Was life ever going to be different for me again? Was there more to life than this - my role as mother. Who was I, what was I put here for?, would I ever DO something of merit?? God, perhaps I should've joined the religious cult Opus Dei and flogged myself!!

When I was a kid, I had what my grandma would say "a lot of chutzpa", No mountain was to high and no walls were going to stop me. As much as my dad will loathe me to say  this but I thought I was going to be the next Maggie Thatcher- not really in politics, but in what ever it was I chose to do - yes choose, because I had so many things I wanted to do. Even now, as I type, I have visions of this child with a sparkle in her eye and a fire in her belly - eager to get out and make her mark on the world. That light got blown out when I developed Anorexia. It's actually bizarre to think about really, I was so desperate as a child to conquer the world, but in hind sight I became anorexic as I was so frightened of becoming a woman. A paradox of sorts really.

For years my whole life became entangled in a web of food and exercise, disabling me from reaching the great heights that I expected. I wasn't able to function as rational or "normal" person. And, in some ways I'm still experiencing some similar obstacles. 

So much so, I decided a month or so ago to try counselling again. I've had counselling on a couple of occasions as a teen but didn't really appreciate or want it - it was more a case of being pushed into it, but this time I made the decision. I wanted to be able to use my brain for something other than negative thoughts and worrying about getting fat. 

I love writing and my ambition is to write two books that I have the ideas for. I also want to continue with my mums recipe book blog, which means a lot to me. But, right now my head is so full of junk that it's hard to concentrate on these things.

It's been over a month now and I've made inroads, I've realised that I am grieving for this little girl that once was. When someone dies, you seem to put them on a pedestal and erase all the flaws. They become like a ghost, haunting you and making it hard to move on. What I have to do now is find some way to move away from the past and focus on the present and the future without believing that my glass is always going to be half empty.

I've also become aware that whilst there might have been people and decisions that have effected my life in some way, these should not be dwelt on or used as an excuse for where I am now and how I feel. The only person that is control of my life. There are only so many factors you can blame before you have to look at yourself and realise that it is only you that can change and only you that can choose the right path.